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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Legal challenge expected to delay new cemetery in Mid & East Antrim

An objector is to lodge a legal case against the development of a new cemetery in Larne, Mid and East Antrim councillors have been told.

A report presented to the borough council’s Direct Services Committee this week said that a “three-month hold is now in place to allow an objector to lodge a legal cause against the development”.

“DfI (Department for Infrastructure) is also assessing whether the application should be referred to it for a determination.”

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has granted approval for a £2.1m cemetery outside the town at Old Glenarm Road.

Last week, councillors reacted angrily to a letter from the Department over the recent decision by the planning committee to approve the application without prior notification.

The committee was told that the Department has the “right to intervene”.

A letter to the council said:

“It is the Department’s view that it would be appropriate to notify the Department in relation to the application by the council for the construction of a municipal cemetery.”

The correspondence was blasted by former planning committee chair, Ballymena Alderman Audrey Wales MBE who described it as “an insult to the members of this planning committee that they can’t make a proper decision”.

Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Robert Logan described it as “political interference”.

Councillors have been told that there were five objections to the proposed development of the new cemetery at a 15-acre site, consisting of two fields, opposite 382 Old Glenarm Road on the right side of the road towards Ballygally.

It is expected to be able to facilitate almost 4,000 plots with capacity for 25 years.

An objector who lives opposite the site has expressed concern about the potential impact on his property and surrounding area.

Speaking on the resident’s behalf, a planning consultant suggested a potential for an additional 300 vehicle movements in the vicinity per day with “large volumes of cars arriving at the same time”, which she told the committee, would prevent her client from turning into his property. She also noted that noise impact has not been assessed.

She pointed out that Translink has not agreed to a new bus route to the cemetery site and currently “only those with a car can get there”. She also noted the “natural heritage impact” of the loss of 240 metres of roadside hedging.

The local authority anticipates that there will be 180 burials annually with a maximum of three per day and a “gap of 90 minutes between funerals”.

McGarel Cemetery at Old Glenarm Road is already at capacity and Greenland Cemetery in Craigyhill will reach capacity in nine years.

The new cemetery will include a memorial garden, 140 parking spaces, public toilets including a Changing Places facility for disabled users, a staff building with access to the site by a new right-hand turning lane at Old Glenarm Road. A bus stop is included in plans.

A decision on the application had been deferred in March to allow for a site visit to take place.

The council’s head of planning Paul Duffy told the committee that the cemetery is being developed as a “long-term strategy”, noting a “general shortage of burial capacity in the area”. He added that “an over-riding need has been demonstrated”.

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